Dakar: Casale opens quads title defense with win; Stacey triumphs in trucks (VIDEO)

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Ignacio Casale (pictured), the 2014 Dakar Rally winner in the quads, picked up right where he left off in Sunday’s opening 175km stage of the 2015 edition.

The Chilean rider has already built up a lead of one minute, seven seconds over Poland’s Rafal Sonik, the man he defeated for the top prize twelve months ago.

Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente is an additional 16 seconds back of Sonik in third position following Stage 1.

“The stage was great and very fast,” Casale said. “I think I did a good stage. I was at ease, although I would’ve liked the quad to attain a higher peak speed, but we’ll see to that.

“I had to ease up a bit towards the end to preserve the clutch…The race starts now and I’m looking forward to giving it my all.”

Another Uruguayan, Mauro Almeida, is currently fourth (+2:41) and Qatar’s Mohammed Abu-Issa runs fifth at a shade over three minutes behind the defending quads champ.

A strong battle for top honors in the trucks went to Iveco’s Hans Stacey, who sits atop the category by a margin of 35 seconds over MAN’s Marcel Van Vliet. Van Vliet had been leading through the first two checkpoints of the stage.

Another MAN driver, Ales Loprais, finished third in the stage and is 47 seconds behind.

This year’s Dakar is important for Stacey, a former overall winner who is coming off a retirement in 2013 and a subpar seventh-place finish in 2014.

“I’m over the moon, I’d marked this stage down,” he said on Sunday. “I was driving in Loprais’ wake, but we did a good job. I’ve had problems two years in a row, but this time round everything’s on track and I feel very strong. Mentally too. This doesn’t guarantee anything, but everything’s in place.

“To win this race, all the stars need to be aligned. I believe everything’s ready and organized for me to win. So we’ll try to keep it up…”

Defending truck champion Andrey Karginov of the KAMAZ team did not have a good start to his title defense, coming to the end in 11th position, three minute and 16 seconds back of Stacey.

Coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally starts Monday afternoon on NBCSN. Get your full Dakar TV schedule here.

Red Bull driver Verstappen wins Formula One’s Brazilian GP

NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images
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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won Formula One’s Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday for his eighth career victory in a race which ended disastrously for both Ferrari drivers.

Verstappen controlled nearly all the race at Interlagos, which saw a dramatic late collision between Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc when they fought for the fourth position. Both failed to finish.

Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly got his first F1 podium after finishing second ahead of six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver was third but faces an investigation after an incident that caused Red Bull’s Alexander Albon to spin.

Hamilton, who won at Interlagos in 2018, said Verstappen was “just quicker than us on the straights” and “there was nothing more we could do.”

Dutch driver Verstappen said “Lewis was very quick so I had to keep pushing… we had two good moves with him, and from there onward I could control the race.”

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was fourth, and could be promoted to third if Hamilton is punished.

The Brazilian GP on Sunday was the penultimate race of the season, with only Abu Dhabi left on Dec.1.

Hamilton had already secured the season title in the previous race in the United States. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who did not finish the race, had also secured the runner-up spot.